Monday, May 13, 2013

Forcing it in the Forest: The Mac 50k Report

Since my post about committing to the Mac over a month ago my training slid downhill a bit.  It lacked intelligent structure, had no critical peak (mental and/or physical), and really appeared that I just plain didn't give a damn.  Springtime at the nursery just gets to be way too much and those 4am runs were moved to evenings which means they turned from 12 to 8 to 6 milers as I felt pressed to just get something in while trying to maintain a somewhat helpful presence around the house.  Pete, the dog, makes it clear that he needs both parents.

Even my weekend outings got withered down to shorter jaunts.  One weekend I barely got 13-14 hilly miles in at Silver Falls before having to be back to the nursery (on a Sunday) for a sales meeting.  Another slightly better day 2 weeks ago I got in 7 hilly miles out at Zena Forest before running the sustained road climb up Orchard Heights and dropping into downtown (another 13+ miles).  Lacking distance and having skipped several more speed oriented workouts left me feeling ill-prepared for what I wanted to be a really good race down in Corvallis.  I got to the weekend prior and wondered if I should go sort of long or just push something kind of hard.  Ultimately, I decided a good 10k effort with a mile warm-up and another mile cool-down would have to do the trick.  In a less than focused run did the 10k in the form of loops at Bush Park in well under 40:00 minutes.  It felt good but it wasn't the extreme confidence booster I'd hoped for...

Sometime during the week I got an email about bib #'s.  I almost didn't click the link at all as I've never been one to pay much attention to bib #'s but out of boredom I clicked it.  Initially I zoomed right to the bottom of the list where the Z in my last name usually lands me and I wasn't there.  What happened?!  I'd paid, my entry was confirmed, has there been a mistake?!  I then scrolled back up to the top.  The anticipated top 10 women where up there with #'s 1-10 and then the top 20 men with #'s 11-30.  My name was listed 28th.  Normally, I would have found this exhilarating and an honor but given my apprehension about my recent training I just got really nervous--almost stressed out.

Then Saturday rolled around.  This year it was just Kattie, Pete and I headed down there.  We got there 45-50 minutes before the start and time went by quickly as we walked around up by the lake.  I filled my water bottle said hi and good luck to a few people (while hiding my bib # so no one would have any expectations).  Then with a DONG! of the gong we were out of there.  I settled in with Pam for a few miles just catching up on things and comfortably clipping away on the logging roads and moderate trails.  Soon I pulled ahead and she said good luck, have a great race.  I responded "I'm sure I'll see you later."  It wasn't for awhile but sure enough I did see her later.

I then ran a bit with Mike Rosling and eventually pulled away from him too.  "What the hell is wrong with me?" I began to think.  "I really ought to know better than to push the pace like this.  These people, Pam, Mike, and about 20 others behind me, are smart runners.  I need to be holding back if I am going to execute a decent race all the way to the finish."  I did cool the pace just a bit after bombing down Extendo (that section is too good to turn down a zippy descent).  But still no one came up from behind. 

Then I got into the Maze and struggled the ups in there while trying to keep my focus which first began to get fuzzy at this point.  I got out of the woods and on the road to Dimple Hill which I really liked as I finally felt like I was running and making some progress again even though a guy passed me there.  On top of Dimple (at mile 18ish), I sort of spaced out at the aid station for a minute or so just kind of staring at the cornucopia of food on display.  I must of looked like a stoned high schooler in a 7-11 candy aisle because I was getting strange looks back from the folks running the table.  One guy was asking what I wanted and mentioned a cold beer.  I thought for just a second, "Sure.  Hell, make it 2 and how about a helicopter ride out of here before I really bomb this race."  But it was a fleeting thought, I finally grabbed 2 gels and a piece of PB&J and got out of there.  I felt better on the decent to Chip Ross than I had felt last year but realized I hadn't been paying any attention to my nutrition just salting and geling on a whim here and there with no rhyme or reason.

Kattie had been supporting me at AS 1 and 2 and I expected to see her at AS 4 but she was no where to be found.  I pulled off another awkward zombie-zonk moment at the food table and looked around down in the parking lot but she was no where to be found.  Oh well back to the race.  Now for the dreaded climb out of there... 

I hit a really low point where the climbing is somewhat exposed and steep on Lower Horse Trail.  I was thinking, this is like some kind of addiction/sickness, the lows are lower than ever and the highs are higher than ever...  this low was lingering a bit too long.

I walked a bit and felt like I was going backwards a couple times.  I felt like I was never going to feel the swoosh of energy I just shot into my mouth (in the form of a gross strawberry/banana GU) when all of the sudden I started running up some hills steeper than those I'd just walked.  I passed a guy who had just passed me (again--we went back and forth) on the road or someplace on the Ridge Trail.  The final AS was full of energy but I was beat.  I filled my bottle and the guy running the station informed me that I was in 10th place and 11th was right behind me.  My thoughts at this point were "I might as well be 93rd and him 94th.  Let them all come and pass me... I am so tired."

I regained some focus and made good time for less than a mile before getting on the newest addition to the course.  Another f-ing climb!  This brings the total elevation gain into the vicinity of 7000' for this jaunt through the woods.  Towards the top I heard people coming up from behind.  These were new faces/voices.  2 dudes looking strong and Pam just out killing it.  She yelled for me to "come on, let's go!" as she whizzed past.  All I could do was mutter a pathetic groan in response.  We then got back on the road and I started feeling a little more zing in my step.  I passed one superfit looking dude and then saw the 1.64 mile sign for the trail to the finish.  I passed  the other guy just as we got on the single track and slowly chiseled up the hill.  It tipped slightly downward and I bolted.  I even caught some glimpses of another guy but he was really dropping the hammer as well.  I just pegged the heart rate and leg turn over to something manageable and held out for the sounds of cheering crowds.  It wasn't long and I was there, high-fiving and collapsing/laying in the grass trying to settle my guts without passing out.  Just trying to talk to Kattie and listening to the bluegrass band gave me a reason to stay conscious and I eventually came out of my near death state.  A soda and soup and we hit the road to Rogue Brewery for some celebration on the way home.

All in all it was a great day for a race.  The organization at Mac is second to none and the trails were in outstanding shape.  The crowds were awesome and Kattie and Pete make the best cheering squad I could ask for.  I know it was a race and they never come easy (at least not when you are trying to explore what you are honestly capable of) but this one felt very "forced" if I had to choose one adjective to describe it.  My lack of training left some noticeable gaps in strength and overall endurance, not just in my legs but in my mental attentiveness.  I had to force myself to stay focused and force some motions that I'd hoped would come more naturally.  I am content with the 4:42 time (25 minutes off last yrs. time) but still left wondering, "what could I do if I nailed it?  If it just fell into place more naturally without all the forcing, what am I capable of?"

2nd Mac 50k finish!